Monday, September 07, 2009

Powerful Challenge

The kids are all ready to go back to school tomorrow: shoes, backpacks and school supplies. There's a mix of excitement and nervousness in the air. I usually am more worried about making sure they are ready physically and than working on preparing their hearts. More important than new shoes or pencils is their ability to show the other kids around them the love of Jesus. How do I prepare my kids for a challenge like that?

We had our worship service at a park with a river running through it yesterday. We made use of the river for some baptisms. The testimonies the two men that were being baptized gave were short and to the point but nothing short of amazing. God has been at work in their lives. And one in particular, if you knew him, you would never believe that he follows Christ. You wouldn't have thought it was possible. I didn't.

He was not a nice guy. He coached football, taught phy ed and was Mayor of our little town. There was lots of talk about this colorful guy. Mike knew him through football and faithfully visited with him as he went through a series of health problems. I couldn't understand why he was wasting his time on that guy. This winter that guy was broken and came to Christ. No one could believe it when he came to church week after week, month after month. Yesterday, we heard him give testimony that he had been living only for himself and now he's living for Christ. And he is a changed man. I know many people are still skeptical but I'm not. Not anymore. I've seen the change in him first hand.

Why am I continually surprised in the power of salvation through Jesus? I was reading about Paul last night and his powerful conversion on the road to Damascus. He was violently persecuting Christians. He hated them. And then in one moment God broke through and changed his heart.

Acts 9:1-6
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. he went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

Saul's name was changed to Paul and he became the author of many New Testament books and a missionary church planter.

I believe I've seen a Paul-like conversion. It had nothing to do with the man or how mean he was or a pastor who visited him occasionally. It was the power of the Holy Spirit breaking into this man's heart.

As a parent, my greatest desire is to see my kids come to faith in Christ and faithfully honor and follow Him. It is tempting to force or coerce a salvation prayer or decision to know they are "saved". It's nice to have a date to write down in the front of my Bible. No matter how hard I try I cannot change their hearts from the born sinners they are. The only thing that can change their heart is the Holy Spirit and the most important thing I can do is pray. Sure, I'll take them to Sunday School and talk about Jesus' love and sacrifice. But the work of changing their hearts is not mine.

That's what I learned from Paul and the men that were baptized yesterday.

As I send the kids back off to school this year, I feel compelled to commit myself to praying for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts for salvation and maturation in Christ. It's the highest calling we have as parents and unfortunately for me, the one that often gets pushed to the back due to other important activities like buying pencils and papers.

Could I challenge you to do the same?

Acts 2:38-39
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Ephesians 5:1
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.


Deb said...

Hey Michelle!

Loved your writing this week.

Prayer is our biggest calling as parents for our kids. When they are little we get so bogged down by so many other things we think are important and when they gone we realize just how much time we need to be on our knees for them.

I am praying for you that the Lord will help you put the other things aside and that he will give you the time to pray for them daily.

I wish I had prayed more when Hannah was younger. I am thankful that she came to Jesus at a young age but I wish I had taken time away from everything I thought was so important to intercede on her behalf.

Now I have more time on my hands and I know I have to spend more time on my knees for the kids the Lord has entrusted me with.

You are doing a great job mom! Keep teaching and instructing them and leading them to Jesus!



Wayne Pederson said...

I just heard Steve Brown this week talk on the parable of the sower. He said for years he's preached that this parable is about the various kinds of soil: some receives the seed, other soil is shallow and the seed doesn't grow, etc. But he said he just realized the parable is not about the soil, but about the seed. The seed is God's Good News. Forget about the soil. Just keep planting the seed. God's job is the soil and what comes out of it. So, my dear, just keep planting those seeds.